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Full text of "A story about a real man"

|32                                                                                                     B- POLEVOI
into correspondence with him. They ^ wrote that, if the
lieutenant was not offended by their importunity, would
he not write and tell them how he was getting on? And
one of them, who signed herself Anyuta, wrote, asking
whether she could be of assistance to him in any way, did
he need any good books, and if he did need anything, he
was not to hesitate and ask her for it.
All day long the lieutenant turned those letters over
and over, read the addresses and scrutinised the hand-
writing. He was, of course, aware that correspondence of
this kind was carried on and had himself once conducted
such with an unknown correspondent, a kindly note from
whom he had found in the thumb of a pair of woollen
mittens he had received as a holiday gift. But this cor-
respondence ceased of its own accord when his corre-
spondent sent him a jesting note with a photograph of
herself, a middle-aged woman, with four children. But
this was something different. The only thing that per-
plexed and surprised him was that the arrival of these
letters was unexpected, and they had all come together.
And another thing he could not understand was: how
did these medical students get to know about his activities
in the war? The whole ward wondered about this, and
most of all the Commissar. But Meresyev caught the
significant glances he exchanged with Stepan Ivanovich
and the nurse, and guessed that he was at the bottom
of it.
Be that as it may, next morning Gvozdev asked the
Commissar for some writing paper and without waiting
for permission unbandaged his right hand and wrote till
the evening, crossing out lines, crumpling the letter and
starting a new one, until, at last, he composed replies to
his unknown correspondents.
Two of the girls soon stopped writing, but kind-hearted
Anyuta continued to write for the three of them. Gvozdev
was a man of communicative disposition and now the
whole ward knew what was going on at the third-year
course of the medical department of the university, what
a thrilling subject biology was and how dull organic
chemistry, what nice voice the professor had and how
well he presented his subject, what a bore lecturer So-and-
so was, how much firewood the students had loaded on to